Wolfenstein 2 Ads Misrepresented the Game and Fed on US Political Turmoil

Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus ads have been the center of some controversy for the last few months. Bethesda released a series of small vignettes on Twitter that tapped into the volatile current events surrounding the Presidency of Donald Trump and perception that Fascism is on the rise in the United States. Because of these ads, you would assume that The New Colossus has some topical allegory to make about the situation, but it doesn’t. The marketing around Wolfenstein 2 was purely devised to get gamers who are not inclined to purchase violent shooters buy the game.

Regardless of where you fit on the political spectrum, you can probably agree that using predatory marketing is a bad thing. While the developers of Wolfenstein 2 plainly stated that the game wouldn’t be tapping into current events for the narrative, these ads were telling a different story.

Also: Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus Review – Blazkowicz Über Alles

For the most part, Wolfenstein 2’s marketing fit the typical script. However, it seems that somewhere down the line, a higher-up decided that by piggy-backing on the intense emotions produced by the Trump election and tragedies like Charlottesville, their job would be done for them. And they were right; the #NoMoreNazis, #NotMyAmerica and Make America Nazi-Free Again trailers spread like wildfire and each time a new marketing material released, it was the talk of the industry.

Before anyone argues that the ads were simply satire, or that they were enough commentary by themselves, closer attention needs to be paid to the machinations behind this marketing. For one, #NotMyAmerica is a very popular Twitter hashtag that many people use to signify events and ideas that they feel are contrary to the country’s welfare. So by co-opting the hashtag, Bethesda made it harder for people who frequent the hashtag to both convey and receive information that’s important to them. Instead, they now have to wade through Wolfenstein tweets rather than the information the hashtag was initially intended to disseminate. Of course, this is entirely intentional, because the individuals who use the #NotMyAmerica hashtag are precisely the audience that this marketing is targeting.

This whole campaign was meant to incense people on all sides of the political spectrum and incite arguments so that more people would talk about Wolfenstein 2. The problem is, it’s all bullshit. I reviewed Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus, and while I enjoyed it, it’s about as topical as a GI Joe cartoon. Aside from some very subdued and thickly veiled comments, the game has absolutely nothing to say about the current climate concerning race, politics, or any number of hot-button issues. I’ve seen quite a few tweets from people who said they were buying the game just because of the politically-infused ads, and they’re going to be sorely disappointed in what they’re getting.

I’m not going to spoil the game (it is terrific on its own merits) by going into a lot of detail concerning the plot, but any commentary about racism is pretty much exclusively towards race relations in the early-to-mid twentieth century. There are strong female characters, but there are no feminist ideals espoused here. The Nazis here are purely Third Reich. The only big scene featuring the KKK is for comic relief, and although you do fight Klansmen in several levels, there’s only one Nazi collaborator that is scrutinized with any detail.

Using politics to sell a product is dirty, especially when the thing you’re selling doesn’t contain what you’re alluding to. The thing to remember is that despite Bethesda’s marketers framing their ads as a rallying cry, they aren’t your buddies. When they put their arm around you and say, “We’re all in this together,” they’re thinking of how to slip money out of your pocket. Wolfenstein 2 is a game, a product to be sold, and anything an ad says is to get you to buy it. The saddest part of all the subterfuge is that The New Colossus is a fantastic game, and it doesn’t need that kind of trickery to sell well.